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Slive Speaks: Football Rivalries Saved, Basketball Rivalries Dumped

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has wrapped up his league’s 2012 spring meetings by sharing the following information:


* The SEC made $241.5 million dollars last year.

* $147.8 million came from football and basketball television contracts.

* The average SEC per team payout will be $20.1 million, up from $19.5 million last year (but those numbers could still rise a bit).

* Football will use a 6-1-1 scheduling model, as expected.  This at least saves some of the SEC’s oldest rivalries (Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt) as well as one of its marquee television games (Florida-LSU).  Slive said the “overwhelming” majority voted for the 6-1-1 plan.

* This 6-1-1 will feature a rotation of teams each season, so schools will go 12 years between visits to cross-division rivals.

* The 2013 schedule was not released and has not been completed.  Who plays whom in terms of rotating cross-division foes will be decided at random.

* Arkansas-Missouri and South Carolina-Texas A&M will become permanent cross-division rivals as expected.

* Horribly, the basketball schedule will feature just one permanent opponent as part of the ridiculous 1-4-8 plan.  This means that some of the SEC’s oldest rivalries (LSU-Ole Miss, LSU-MSU, Kentucky-Tennessee, and Florida-Georgia have all been played more than 200 times, for example) will no longer be home-and-home matchups each and every season.

* The permanent basketball rivals will be Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Florida-Kentucky, Georgia-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Mississippi State-Ole Miss and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

* The men’s basketball tournament will feature all 14 teams with the four lowest-seeded teams playing Wednesday night games.

* Slive said the league is dedicated to a 1-2-3-4 plan for college football’s playoff…

* But he said the SEC is open to discussing how those top four teams are chosen.

* Slive said it will “take some time to get it done” when asked about a possible SEC Network.


Instant reaction:

Obviously, we at believe for many reasons that the league would have been better off going to a nine-game conference schedule in football.  This has nothing to do with following the pack and everything to do with creating better inventory for television, protecting more rivalries, and keeping the SEC impervious to strength of schedule attacks.

By failing to adopt a nine-game slate, the SEC has needlessly given its many, many detractors ammunition.  We believe the league will eventually pay a price for that and will ultimately be forced to go to a nine-game slate at some point as a result.

As for basketball, well, Sam from “The Brady Bunch” couldn’t have butchered things more.  Instead of using a 4-1-8 plan — as we had proposed months ago — the league decided to adopt instead a 1-4-8 plan which protects just one rival per team as an annual home-and-away foe.  The millionaire coaches making these decisions lack the sense of history that their fanbases possess and therefore they’ve wiped their Berlutti shoes on decades of tradition.

The fact that Commissioner Slive allowed his coaches to make the call on this front will forever be a stain on his legacy.

Slive changed the way conferences make money with his groundbreaking television contracts in 2008.  He has overseen a “Golden Age” of on-field and in-the-coffers success (though his predecessor, Roy Kramer, deserves great credit for leaving him a solid foundation… a foundation that was not left up to the SEC’s coaches, it should be noted).

But just as Slive has proven to be a great businessman, he’s now proven to be a poor custodian, an absentee trustee when it comes to his league’s basketball heritage.  That is very disheartening.  In choosing to lead from the rear, Slive has dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.

As for the SEC Tournament format that was adopted, well, it was the format we projected months ago, so we’re not pleased, disappointed or surprised on that front.  It was really the only sensible model that could have been implemented.

In all — and this is solely the view of this writer — the league’s dismal failure on the scheduling front makes the SEC’s current television negotiations all the more important.  If Slive can milk a helluva lot more money out of CBS, ESPN, or both, fine.  Money is money.  But if he cannot, then there’s no debating that this round of expansion will have been a step backward for the Southeastern Conference in terms of finances and tradition.

In 1992, the SEC acted boldly.  It expanded, it added conference games in football, it created a first-of-its-kind football championship game.  The long-term good of the league outweighed the wishes of the fearful, the timid and the meek.  The result has been near unparalleled success in the major sports (and at the bank) ever since.

But as Destin neared 20 years later, we began to have our own fears.  Largely, we worried that the overly-cautious in today’s SEC would be given more power through Slive’s consensus-building style.

With the SEC Meetings now history, it appears that fear has been realized.  That’s disappointing.

The SEC has been built on tradition and today some of if its greatest and oldest traditions were devalued.  Now the success of the league’s most recent additions must be judged solely on the value of the SEC’s re-worked television deals.

Money over tradition.  Gee.  Who’d have seen that coming?

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Ex-SEC Commish Kramer Says Everything’s Cyclical; If Only The SEC’s Current Custodians Understood That

Seldom does a schedule-related story appear on our site that we don’t point out how cyclical things are.  Schools rise and fall and rise and fall again (as we wrote just yesterday).  For that reason, we have steadfastly stated that SEC scheduling — in football and in basketball — should be based on tradition more than any other variable.

The fact that arguably the SEC’s best basketball rivalry — Kentucky and Tennessee — is unlikely to remain a twice-a-year event so Kentucky and Florida — the hot teams now — can be paired up provides a perfect example of how the SEC is about to shoot itself in the foot by thinking short-term, not long-term.

But don’t take our word for it.  Listen to the man who set the SEC’s money ball a’ rollin’ 20 years ago with a first-wave of expansion and an SEC Championship Game in football.  According to ex-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, who is good today might not be who is good tomorrow:


“Years ago, everybody wanted to play Florida (in football).  That’s the problem.  Everybody looks at it as the teams stand right this minute.  Times change.  Those things go up and down and even out.  Early on, everybody said we’d structured the divisions in such a way that the East was far stronger than the West.  Now, it’s the opposite.”


Still, many fans look at the latest standings sheet when trying to figure out their own dream scheduling scenarios.  Ditto SEC coaches and athletic directors.

Which is why Mike Slive — at least as of this writing — appears to have made a critical error in allowing those very coaches and ADs to decide the league’s future football and basketball schedules.  He’s basically allowed the kids to pick what’s for dinner.

“Hey, great, Hot Pockets and ice cream again!”

There’s what’s best for the schools — give us the weakest, creampuffiest schedule possible — and there’s what’s best for the league — protect as many traditional rivalries as possible.  Unfortunately, guys like John Calipari and Cuonzo Martin have zero clue when it comes to the heated rivalry that is Kentucky-Tennessee in basketball.  Folks like LSU AD Joe Alleva don’t get what’s so important about Auburn-Georgia in football.  And Slive’s given these guys the keys to his billion-dollar sports car.

So here’s hoping the SEC’s presidents will step to the plate today and break from their coaches just as they did last year on the oversigning issue.  But I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

"I've Got A Bad Feeling About This!"

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